"Self-sufficiency does not mean 'going back' to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living, for food that is organically grown and good, for the good life in pleasant surroundings... and for the satisfaction that comes from doing difficult and intricate jobs well and successfully." John Seymour ~ Self Sufficiency 2003

Monday 16 April 2012

Easter on the farm - part 2

On Saturday night I cooked our dinner on the small stove we removed from the caravan and which we have installed in our kitchen area.  Rain is not conducive to braai-ing (barbecue-ing) nor does it make solar cooking viable LOL
The small LPG stove from the caravan
We had both spent the day outside - apart from the 2 hour sprinkle from the heavens above which produced 7mm.  The cold front certainly brought a drop in temperature – most welcome (at least to this Limey) after the heat of summer.
12 volt car radio - perfect for providing music /
news when necessary
As we sat at the table after dinner, which was eaten in the glow provided by the paraffin (kerosene) lamps and after washing up, RMan listened to the rugby (via our 12volt car radio).  Feeling gemütlich (cosy and warm) and both with full tummies, I started reflecting on our journey thus far.

My conclusion?  Life is good.  Very, very good :)

When we purchased our plot in March 2008 we purchased it as a form of
insurance – RMan was fed up with actual insurance companies, and their
so-called performance.  We believed that removing our hard earned funds from their sticky fingers and putting whatever we had to spare into a piece of land would, ultimately, bring us a better return.
The plot when were purchased it - empty, overgrazed
 and with a single small tree - but a view to die for
Little did we know that a "bug" would grab us firmly with both hands.  We initially had just a piece of land - just over 2 Ha in extent.  That was all it was then.
The amazing view from the plot
But, slowly, we decided that perhaps we should have a small weekend structure on it.  A weekend getaway place which would allow us to visit our investment.
Caravan on the plot
So we found, and purchased, a small, old, 2nd hand caravan which we schlepped up to the “farm” as we now called it.  Then we discovered that during the overpowering heat of mid-summer and the freezing cold of mid-winter, the caravan wasn’t really adequate.  Nor was it big enough to accommodate our son, daughter and grandson – and naturally we had to, and wanted to, share our new found pleasure with them.

We decided to build a small house.   However, I insisted that as we were doing it from scratch I would like to do it properly – in as eco-friendly a manner as we could, utilizing as many locally produced and recycled materials as possible.  Thankfully, RMan came on board with my dream.
Phase 1 of the build using locally manufactured
clay bricks, clad in high lime render, double
glazed windows, recycled plastic roof tiles
and (alien) wood burning stove 
We've learnt many lessons during the course of the build - how to lay water mains pipe in a ditch leading from the roadside 200mtrs away to our future structure site, the importance of correctly siting foundations, throwing floor slabs, erecting roofing and installing the roof tiles (thanks RSon :) ), lime plastering and base-coat painting, installing plumbing and electrical wiring, how to handle the wet, sticky clay in winter... the list is endless.  It may still not be painted, and many things have yet to be completed.  But, gratefully, the small unfinished structure we have is far better than a caravan, or tent. It has a roof (with a ceiling) to keep out the draughts, dust and rain in winter, as well as offer us some welcome coolness and shade in summer.   We can comfortably cook indoors or out.  And we have a hot shower to wash off the dust / mud at the end of the day.  As well as a fully-functioning bathroom.
Vegetables growing in the shade cloth veggie hut
We have discovered that we can grow some of our food requirements.  That will improve / expand once we’re there full time.  But I’m seriously impressed at what has been produced in the shade cloth veggie patch given the lack of (human) TLC / interference.

We currently have three solar panels and 4 X 130Ah Deep Cycle batteries, and, that Saturday night, after 3 days of overcast, wet weather their charge was not optimal.  I had to make a decision – to switch on the extra side lamp in our single big “room” or do I allow the camera to charge?  No contest – the extra light is superfluous – we have plenty of candles and paraffin lamps - and the camera is recording our journey – every hurdle, (pleasant or unpleasant) surprise, elated moment, every step backwards and our definite and exciting progress forwards.

The build so far.  Phase 2 is in the pipeline...
So, as much as our “farmhouse” is a work in progress, and still has many unfinished projects and shortages of “familiar comforts”, it is, in the grand scheme of things, more than adequate for a comfortable existence. And, considering what the majority of our fellow South African’s have to call “home” we are very fortunate!

We have learnt to be very comfortable with less than we are used to, not least because we have come to realize that “all the trappings” are inhibiting, restricting, and, if I’m completely honest, unnecessary. We can, and are, content with making do with less than is required “necessary” ("time-saving", power-consuming electrical appliances, air-conditioning, the latest gadgets and tablet computers, fancy kitchens and bathrooms, expertly installed gardens and professional impersonal home decor, etc.) by the majority of the First World.  Makes you think and wonder how much of our “necessary” comfort these days is engineered, and dictated to, by large corporations and their advertising agencies, or by competing with the Jones's next door?

Once we sell our town house, all we are aiming for is to move to our farm, grow substantially more of our vegetable requirements (well, I reckon I've had enough practice LOL), complete Phase 2 (two upstairs and one downstairs bedrooms), install a small VAWT (vertical axis wind turbine) to boost our power supply during the wet, overcast winter days, and have enough batteries to adequately store the solar and wind power to comfortably run our freezer, some lights, charge cell phones / torch batteries, the radio (and eventual TV) and the computer - and that's it. Wherever possible house / kitchen / garden aids will be hand operated (RMan's ride-on mower is permitted as it's 100% necessary for providing substantial firebreaks and removing potential snake hiding places LOL).  You all know that there is nothing better, nor as grounding, as getting your hands dirty, and putting some (ALL) of yourself into what you are going to be getting back in return.  And, any new item which enters this home in the future will be vetted for it's genuine necessity factor, and it's (ecologically based) journey from manufacture to purchase will be carefully scrutinized.

Simplicity is more than enough…


  1. Hi Dani
    I'm glad to see that you got some of your mojo back between the first Easter past and this one. It is a long time to wait for a sale but it will eventually sell, no doubt. We had a similar delay when selling our place in Sydney to move up to the property here and in the end, we just had to take a lower price as the goal at the end was well worth it. Now I don't even think about it but love every day we get to spend on our "farm", all five acres of it. I've just come back in from doing some dusk planting in beds I prepared over the weekend. Peas and broad beans went in quietly as the chooks clucked disapprovingly at being on the other side of the fence before marching off to bed in a huff. Life's good.

    1. EB - Mojo - yeah, it comes and goes, especially in times of stress...

      It would appear that the modis operandi of estate agents in this country is to stage a show day, not necessarily to sell the house they are showing, but in order to obtain names of prospective buyers in order to sell them another cheaper house. We have reduced our price - quite substantially - and yet we have had no offers as yet. Really quite strange, as we have a beautiful home, even if I say so myself ;) (and, yes, I AM biased LOL)

      But I have faith - please just forgive my momentary hiccup every now and then - I am a mere mortal after all :)

  2. The transformation from barren plot to what you have is amazing. I hope you have many many years of enjoyment with it.
    ( and note to town house----SELL--DARNIT!!)


    1. Sue - Thank you :) I am sooooooooo looking forward to being able to enjoy it properly, and not just for the occasional weekend.

      I've passed on your note to the house.... LOL

  3. Does this mean that if you sell your house you are no longer looking for a house between the farm and where you live now? I remember you saying something about a house that would put you closer to the farm. And looking back is always so great to make you see just how much you have accomplished.

    1. Jane - No, we will still be looking for a small half-way place - for RMan when he needs to come to town for work. Me, I'm staying on the farm :)

  4. Thanks for sharing this story Dani...it's wonderful background on how you arrived at the 'Farm' :)

    I really admire what you're doing - especially since you're living in a place like SA. Your building practices and experience could really be such a help to those who are less fortunate. Have you considered doing an outreach programme in the future to help people living in shanty towns?

    1. Tanya - You're more than welcome :)

      That's a thought - only problem is getting past the red tape / corruption. Anything that could affect the back pocket payments would not be welcomed. Governments world wide need the poor and under-privileged in order to be re-elected as a result of election promises.

  5. What an excellent post! I loved reading your story. Very admirable as well as inspirational. I so agree about your "insurance policy."

    1. Leigh - Thank you :) Yeah - insurance companies...!


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